Prodigious Violin Talent Performs, Teaches, Too

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 5, 2003 | Go to article overview

Prodigious Violin Talent Performs, Teaches, Too


Byline: T.L. Ponick, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman is delighted to have been named a Kennedy Center honoree. It's the latest in a distinguished series of awards that includes the

Medal of Liberty (1986) and the National Medal of Arts (2000).

"I'm extremely flattered," he says. Yet he is also a bit pensive. Honors like this can mean that "you're already far enough along in your career to look back on your past accomplishments." Happily, however, Mr. Perlman is looking ahead, as well.

Mr. Perlman's prodigious talent was recognized at an early age. Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1945, he received his initial music education at the Academy of Music in that city. Emigrating to the United States in 1958, he made an appearance in 1959 on TV's popular "Ed Sullivan's Caravan of Stars," where he played Rimsky-Korsakov's whirring "Flight of the Bumblebee" and the energetic finale of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. He eventually enrolled in New York's Juilliard School and won the important Leventritt Competition in 1964. The rest, of course, has been musical history.

Since his early successes, Mr. Perlman has gone on to become perhaps the most universally acclaimed classical violinist of the late 20th century, achieving additional triumphs in what are arguably crossover genres for a classical musician. He has performed in public and made recordings of traditional klezmer music and jazz. Most notably, he also collaborated with composer John Williams, performing the achingly tragic violin solos in Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-winning film, "Schindler's List."

Mr. Perlman's career has been going in some interesting directions over the past several years. Closest to his heart are his efforts in the Perlman Music Program, a summer institute for training talented young string players ages 12 to 18.

"I do a lot more teaching now," he says. "Everything, including your success, has to do with your ability to listen and figure out what you want to sound like." Successful is what the Perlman Music Program has been. It has given many young string players a real boost and was even featured on a PBS documentary called "Fiddling for the Future" that "lets viewers in on what goes on in our classes," he says. Mr. Perlman believes that an "ease of execution" is what helps develop excellence in an up-and-coming musician. …

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